To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Jerome Rothenberg: “The Hell of Smoke,” for the anniversary of the Hiroshima holocaust

[On the anniversary today of the Hiroshima holocaust I thought to post a poem of mine written some fifteen years after the event & later performed with the Japanese novelist Oda Makoto and composer Charlie Morrow under the auspices of the Bread & Puppet Theater.  The event, “Auschwitz/Hiroshima,” was a dirge for the murders by fire that marked our time and too many times before & after.  The Jigoku Zoshi is a Japanese scroll of hells that dates back to the twelfth century.] 


the seventh hell: of smoke where fire-raisers try in vain to escape
                               from a shower of hot sand falling from a cloud 

The houses of men are on fire
            Pity the dead in their graves
                        & the bones of the living
Pity the roof beams whose waters burn till they’re ash
Pity the old clouds devoured by the clouds of hot sand
& the sweat that’s drawn out of metals pity that too
Pity the teeth robbed of gold
            The bones when their skin falls away
Pity man’s cry when the sun is born in his cities
& the thunder breaks down his door
                        & pity the rain
For the rain falls on the deserts of man & is lost

If the mind is a house that has fallen
                        Where will the eye find rest
The images rises from the marrow & cry in the blood
Pity man’s voice in the smoke-filled days
            & his eyes in the darkness
Pity the sight of his eyes
                        For what can a man see in the darkness
What can he see but the children’s bones & the dead sticks
But the places between spaces & the places of sand
& the places of black teeth
                        The faraway places
The black sand carried & the black bones buried
The black veins hanging from the open skin
            & the blood changed to glass in the night

The eye of man is on fire
           A green bird cries from his house
& opens a red eye to death
The sun drops out of a pine tree
                        Brushing the earth with its wings
For what can a  man see in the morning
What can he see but the fire-raisers
            The shadow of the fire-raisers lost in the smoke
The shadow of the smoke where the hot sand is falling
The fire-raisers putting a torch to their arms
The green smoke ascending
                        Pity the children of man
Pity their bones when the skin falls away
Pity the skin devoured by fire
            The fire devoured by fire
The mind of man is on fire
            & where will his eye find rest